(158): Small Things Matter: Lessons from Hadiza Bala Usman's "Stepping On Toes"
By Muhsin Ibrahim
Due to some reasons, I have not yet finished reading Hadiza Bala Usman's Stepping on Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority. However, as I read through, it felt like I wrote parts of the book. While she acknowledges that she is human and bound to err, the internal reforms she brought to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) are outstanding.
What I love the most is how she paid attention to things we in Nigeria consider minor, such as the working condition of electric appliances, toilets, the ambience of the workplace, punctuality, etc. I will mention just three case scenarios.
First, she learned that "the air-conditioning system was faulty, and [they] suggested installing a standing split unit in my office, but I refused" (p. 37). She insisted that the whole system has to work, kicking against "the mentality of insulating chief executives from the general situation in a working environment [in Nigeria]. (ibid.)" Excellent!
Second, she also pressed that the internet service has to function and be accessible for every staff. Folks, imagine if a university can have a VC that would demand that the internet work for every member of staff and student of the university.
Third is cleaning toilets. Who would think toilets in such coveted workplaces could give "offensive odours"? But that was how she found them. So, she laboriously ensured that it was fixed by using a staircase to her office on the sixth floor, as the toilets are "located just by the staircase" (ibid.).
I don't want to offend my colleagues by sharing a photo of a university staff toilet I took last year! It's, in a word, MESSY. We also know how Oga's office gets exclusive furniture, modern gadgets, speedy internet connection, etc. Suppose every institution can have a leader like Hadiza, who, at least, could bring the above reforms?
Let's work TOGETHER to make Nigeria better!